Bumbershoot Guide

The Bob Dylan Torture Test

Four people born in the 1990s who'd never listened to Bob Dylan before listen to nothing but Bob Dylan—specifically, his career-spanning, three-disc Biograph—for 72 hours straight. Here’s what it was like for them.

The Bob Dylan Torture Test
Galen Weber, age 18

My 72-hour introduction to Bob Dylan was punishing. I listened over a couple days of 14-hour shifts at Seafair, setting up and taking down tents and stages. It was grueling, monotonous work that involved hauling hundreds of tables and chairs and packing away pieces of Astroturf soaked by rainwater and Coors Light.

Exhausted, dirty, and usually listening in a depressive atmosphere of public buses or shitty trucks, the listening was a trial. I was in no state for musical exploration. I felt lost in songs like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" that left me wondering what was musical gibberish and what simply went unappreciated because of a lack of historical context. Who was Johnny in the basement? What medicine was he cooking? And this soot-faced Maggie? Was she some renowned '60s chimney sweep?

Only in rare moments did I savor, almost masochistically, the music, wallowing in Dylan's grating melancholic voice and abandoning any attempt at understanding. Those rare moments tended to come while relaxing at home: frying potatoes for dinner with rain falling, listening to "Percy's Song" for the second time, enveloped by its sense of weariness and powerlessness.

I didn't linger a moment past 72 hours, reentering the wide musical world with Raekwon's refreshingly superficial "House of Flying Daggers." A Dylan marathon is a draining thing, and I was not grateful to be engrossed in fairly complicated lyrics when hungering for the visceral emotional relief music can provide.

Bob Dylan captured a period of political turmoil in the United States, when the country was embroiled in an apparently unwinnable war in a foreign country. But really, any connection I tried to draw to my life and today's world—hey, we're spending lots of money on warplanes now, too!—felt superficial and forced.

Why is it that when a voice grates in a certain way (think Lil Wayne or Leonard Cohen), it suddenly becomes the absolutely best thing to listen to?

My dad said he has three CDs that he still listens to these days. One of them is The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. My mom called herself a great admirer of Bob Dylan and even went to one of his concerts "or maybe two," she said. "But definitely at least one." I can tell those were good times.

I think I'm being pretty generous to the guy. He's got some great songs, but these days, whatever he's doing, not very many people seem to be hearing about it.

Emma Kelley, age 18

Listening solely to Bob Dylan over the course of three 90-degree days while packing for college is something like being in solitary confinement next door to a rambling lunatic with a guitar. Some of the strumming is painful, some achieves sentiment, and SOME comes close to sounding like music. In the sweaty confines of my bedroom, disc one of Biograph was, bluntly, torture.

I imagine that the majority of Bobby D's songs hit home only if you're around a campfire in North Dakota at three in the morning. Or when you're stoned. Hearing endless harmonica and stream-of-consciousness cacophonies is like having restless legs syndrome in your brain. This annoyance coupled with my own inability to pack resulted in utter frustration. However, by day three, now lackadaisical and coming to terms with moving across the country, I inexplicably started to dig it. For a few twilight hours of apathy, tunes like "I Want You" sounded good. But come morning, love was fleeting and his ambling lilt was just funny ("Your dancing child with his Chinese SUITTTT/He spoke to me, I took his FLUTEEEE"). My journey with this dude went from pure loathing to convulsions of laughter, with brief affection sandwiched in between.

Some songs about war, change, and love can transcend generations, but unlike work by other paragons of the '60s like Janis Joplin and John Lennon, Dylan is too indulgent. His lack of variation (congratulations, you can play the harmonica!) doesn't inspire me to keep listening. But you've got to hand it to him for enduring when his work clearly lacks the substance of other hippie-era musicians.

Dylan is a storyteller, not a musician, and this is as evident in his lack of vocal strength as in his aversion to basic composing techniques. He musters flat wails and whispers with casual effort. On his more unassuming and stripped-down tracks, dude can handle a tune, but the midrange in which most of his songs rest is strained and erratic. His stylings can grow on you, but only if you accept his abilities for what they are.

When asked her opinion, my mom shrugged and said, "I could roll any which way with Bob Dylan." Ah, sweet apathy. "In terms of people I wanted you to know, like the Beatles and Barbra Streisand... let's just say he wasn't on the list." Whodathunk, my mom has good taste. Granted, she hasn't listened to much of his work—only the New Morning album, and only because "the cover picture looked like my brother."

The majority of Bob Dylan's songs remind me of a run-on sentence by Jack Kerouac set to music. There is something compelling about the fame he's achieved, given his apparent free-falling style where song structure is an afterthought and it's nearly impossible to find a strain that will stick in your head overnight. I don't know that he deserves celebrity based on his discography. It seems that his reputation rests on Bob Dylan the anomaly more than on Bob Dylan the musical artist. He's not golden. He's just another singer-songwriter.

Ashraf Hasham, age 20

Seventy-two hours of straight-up Bob Dylan. Complete and total immersion into the oeuvre of an artist revered by musicologists, professionals, and amateurs alike. An artist I was only familiar with by name and association. I really didn't know what to expect, but an open mind is what this little experiment called for, and boy let me tell you, that's exactly what I gave it.

By the end of day one, I didn't hate it. It's multifaceted. Dylan's songs fluctuate from short and twangy with a bit of that sweet harmonica to layered and bluesy with super-clean electric-guitar riffs—from simple-yet-profound to convoluted-yet-captivating.

By day two, after going through the three-disc set at least twice, I caught myself singing along with "Groom's Still Waiting at the Altar" and "Like a Rolling Stone," changing my Facebook status accordingly.

Day three brought about some deeper analysis and reflection. Do I like Bob Dylan's music because I somehow owe it to him, as being some sort of revolutionary singer-songwriter? Or do I genuinely dig it for reasons less shallow?

I'm into it. For real, though.

I took a late-night Rollerblade excursion around Green Lake ("Just Like a Woman" played while I looked at an awesome view of the lake and the moon), went to the sunny Ballard Locks, drove around, read, took naps, showered, researched, and socialized to Bob Dylan. I gotta say, he's a good fit for all sorts of circumstances.

Though I thought he was a novelty to begin with, and I still do, Dylan is a talented dude. You can tell from the fiftysomething songs on his three-disc set, he's got a knack for writing catchy tunes. And I'm all about catchy tunes.

Not very relevant. Like I said, he has catchy tunes, but they don't really relate to my life. More often than not, I wasn't even listening to the lyrics, just the melody and the instruments.

Oh, I'm a big fan. I love the way he manipulates his voice to give him that bluesy, beatnik vibe. It's as if that voice and that presence is Bob Dylan, while the behind-the-scenes self is more like Robert Zimmerman. A mask, if you will. He sounded a bit like Robin Williams doing an impression in "I Want You." Just putting that out there.

My parents have about as much experience with Bob Dylan as I did before this project, if not less. You know, being foreign and all. They're from Karachi, Pakistan, where I was born.

I think he's super-talented, and there's really no doubt about that. He's an artist, and luckily for him, he is recognized for it and appreciated for it. I think that his name will go down in history, because it already has, but that doesn't mean I think he's supremely important.

Cage McKinsey, age 17

When I first began my journey into Bob Dylan's subconscious, I was afraid. Many people had told me that what awaited me was some of the most brilliant songwriting of our generation. As I put the first disc of Biograph into my CD player, I expected to adore and revere this man upon the first note of his voice or wail of his guitar. Instead, I experienced utter confusion.

What came out of the speakers was what appeared to be a middle-aged man who wailed and moaned like a witch on steroids, while trying to ramble on about something or other that happened to his wife or friend or someone. Nothing about his work impressed me; his guitar playing was oddly timed and played, his vocals were extremely lacking, and he used the harmonica like rock bands used the cowbell in the '80s. The songs that I liked (at least in comparison to the others) were all the songs that other bands, including Jimi Hendrix, later covered and which in my opinion sound much better than the originals. Even his rhyme schemes and lyrics can be underwhelming after he uses the same base structure for lines multiple times in 10 seconds.

Despite all this, I can at least understand where some people's love for this man's career comes from. During the entire time that I listened, I couldn't help but imagine an old frontier man riding on a wagon train, singing and playing just to pass the time, all the while complaining about his journey west. He wears a cowboy hat and overalls, constantly accompanied by a troupe of young boys who play harmonicas and giggle in glee at every word made by Dylan. It's these boys who eventually grow up and spread their love of the old kindly man who sang them songs. As a result, this man experiences untold popularity after a few years and never stops his songwriting, ever. And all the while, he insists that the sun is not yellow, it's chicken.

I can only relate to his more popular hits and a few odd songs that I personally felt a connection to. Those songs were "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Masters of War," "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll," and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door." I like the structure and chorus on "Mr. Tambourine Man," the overall mood on "Masters of War," and the subject matter and pure sorrow in "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll." "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" is just overall a good song and probably his best mainstream hit based off of what was on this compilation. Problem is, then I hear songs like "Million Dollar Bash" and I want to bash my head in.

There were times listening to this compilation that I thought he sang well, and there were other times when I cringed a little. Dylan's voice can never surpass his whiny, moaning, complaining tone that he has made for himself. He is by no means a great vocalist or even a competent one, but he is able to tell stories.

My parents do not believe him to be the troubadour of their generation, because they are only 39. Neither of them likes the vocal style very much or necessarily his music, but they can appreciate and respect him because of his influence on the music they grew up with. Both agreed that covers of Bob Dylan songs are generally better than his originals.

I personally think that Bob Dylan's presence and influence in music will be felt for a long time to come. He popularized the idea that singers do not have to be talented in the traditional sense in order to be appreciated. Considering that Bob Dylan has been around since the 1960s, I believe it's safe to say his music has some staying power with the population. But do I wish for his music to remain? I can't say that I really care. I am of the opinion that even though he did so much, we need to move on. recommended


Comments (109) RSS

Oldest First Unregistered On Registered On Add a comment
I am disappointed that you went with a three disc biography set as opposed to four or five of his best albums... Blood on the tracks, the freewheelin bob dylan, blonde on blonde, etc. Listening to music as it was composed and designed especially in the era of the album I feel really helps appreciated and give context to much of the music.
Posted by Dylan... not god but pretty close on September 1, 2010 at 1:33 PM · Report this
Is there any three-disc best-of that wouldn't become maddening after 72 hours of straight listening?

Dylan's musical legacy is pretty secure. He'll get more play in 2110 than anybody else playing at Bumbershoot this year, you can be sure. Sorry, Courtney.
Posted by Mike Mansfield on September 1, 2010 at 2:03 PM · Report this
I love The Stranger and have been a devout reader since I myself was a child of 18. I didn't want to read the poorly written opinions of my peers then and I don't want to read the poorly written opinions of children now. Off to read Paul's article in the hopes it will rinse my brain of this ill conceived idea.
Posted by hellohello on September 1, 2010 at 2:14 PM · Report this
I consider myself a pretty obsessive dylan fan, love albums that span his career, the documentaries, his book... but I also own Biograph, just bought the vinyl for novelty sake and I can't really stand listening to it either! I agree w/ comment 1, should have just picked a few albums... nothing knocked me on my ass as much as listening to Bringing It All Back home the first time from start to finish.
Posted by LoveMinusZero on September 1, 2010 at 2:39 PM · Report this
Degree to which an 18-year-old's opinion has relevance to my life: 0.
Posted by cosmosfactory on September 1, 2010 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Perhaps Mama Fratelli put it best: "Kids suck." The notion that somehow Janis Joplin has more substance (?!?!?) and is less self-indulgent- ever heard the worst imaginable version of the old standard "Summertime"?- illustrates an ignorance that surpasses even The Stranger's usual music critics.
Posted by Some Young Guy on September 1, 2010 at 4:03 PM · Report this
JF 7
I'm 29 and I hate that fucker.
Posted by JF on September 1, 2010 at 4:11 PM · Report this
This is how foie gras is made.
Posted by gloomy gus on September 1, 2010 at 4:22 PM · Report this
I have to agree with #1. I'm a big fan of dylan but can't stand the greatest hits comp I have (not biography) for one reason...everytime I hear "don't think twice" I have to dig out my freewheelin disc because I need to hear "bob dylans dream" right after. One thing possibly more difficult than writing 6 or 10 great songs is putting 6 or 10 together in the "right order". There's a whole bunch of great songwriters out there but not very many good "album writers". its a rare and all but lost art. All in all though I like the premise of your story.
Posted by midlander on September 1, 2010 at 4:33 PM · Report this
giantbaiting 10
I bet within five years they all love him.
Posted by giantbaiting http://giantbaiting.bandcamp.com on September 1, 2010 at 4:45 PM · Report this
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha Barbra Streisand ha ha ha ha ha ha. Kid, you deserve the shallowness you inherited. May it serve you well.
Posted by Bassdropper on September 1, 2010 at 5:07 PM · Report this
FWIW, I couldn't listen to Bobby D for 72 hours either. One LP side at a time is my max. But a lot of those LP sides are really beautiful.
Posted by Bassdropper on September 1, 2010 at 5:08 PM · Report this
Rev. Adam McKinney 13
I'm fond of a story my dad told me of when he and my mom saw Dylan in concert.

My mom leans over to my dad and says, "I wish he'd play 'Lay Lady Lay.'"

My dad responds, "He played it three songs ago."
Posted by Rev. Adam McKinney http://weeklyvolcano.com on September 1, 2010 at 5:25 PM · Report this
So a bunch of effete 18 year olds don’t get Dylan? What a surprise...here’s a quick outline on the difference between men and what you see walking around in skinny jeans with moussed hair these days:

1. Dylan road a motorcycle and does ads for Cadillacs. He doesn’t ride a tricycle and drive a Prius.
2. Dylan eats meat.
3. Dylan loved to use the words 'chick' and ‘faggot’ and never apologized for it  Check out the Weberman tapes on youtube.
4. Dylan changed music and the world. The Decemberists have girlfriend issues.
5. Dylan wasn’t a pacifist and said so in numerous interviews. 
6. Dylan owns a gun and once had to threaten hippies with it in his home. 
Posted by Mr. Jones on September 1, 2010 at 5:29 PM · Report this
Just to clarify, they didn't have to listen to the music 24/7 during that 72-hour stretch. They just weren't allowed to listen to anything else.
Posted by Christopher Frizzelle on September 1, 2010 at 5:41 PM · Report this
this is like pop relevance ethnography. love it. it really does show how important the listening environment can be to the reception of music, there is no objective standard, just a series of more or less appropriate mise en scenes.

personally i have no interest in dylan, i just love the idea of listening experiments.
Posted by discoapocalypse on September 1, 2010 at 6:15 PM · Report this
The Stranger needs some writers who don't dabble in poop.
Posted by They Saved Steve Irwin's Cock on September 1, 2010 at 7:23 PM · Report this
I'm 25 and I like Dylan. He's a poet.
Posted by Amanda on September 1, 2010 at 7:51 PM · Report this
"restless leg syndrome in your brain" - Hilarious!
Posted by anonymous2344 on September 1, 2010 at 8:03 PM · Report this
Rich Jensen 20
I didn't REALLY get into Bob Dylan until my 20's, whenever DON'T LOOK BACK was rereleased. The BD in DON'T LOOK BACK is punk as shit.
Posted by Rich Jensen http://cabingames.net on September 1, 2010 at 8:14 PM · Report this
Almost 60 and you can add me to the list of people who never got it. Poet? Don't think so. Singer? Uh,no. Poseur? If the shoe fits...
Posted by lululu on September 1, 2010 at 8:20 PM · Report this
I'm 24 and I don't much care for him as well.
Posted by prettyfits on September 1, 2010 at 9:05 PM · Report this
"half the people can be right all of the all of the time, some of the people can't be all right all the time. But all the people can't be alright all the time. I think Abraham Lincoln said that." Guess what: Bob Dylan sang that.

Who cares what the current apathetic, non-thinking, without musical knowledge, narcissistic, without intellect, indulgently superficial, non-musical, non-poetic, non-artistic, generation has to say.
Posted by RollinStone on September 1, 2010 at 9:11 PM · Report this
I think you need to be more involved in your world to understand Dylan. The context of his songs is when the world was changing really fast and there was a war going on. The same is true now, but people have become so isolated from it that most people nearly forget that there is a war, and there are large scale social changes happening.

These kids (who make me feel old at 22 by the way) aren't engaged in their world, other than the pakistani kid. Dylan's music is largely about suffering and none of them have experienced anything actually close to it.

My favorite Dylan Songs: Gates of Eden and Only a pawn in their game

Posted by kate_13 on September 1, 2010 at 9:31 PM · Report this
@Rollinstone : I think you're shaking your walker too hard. The boomer generation ruined the environment, destroyed our economy and spent themselves into the highest personal debt levels ever. And then has the gall to call younger people narcissistic?! Clearly you have a distorted picture of your own generation.
Posted by kate_13 on September 1, 2010 at 9:35 PM · Report this
"there was a war going on."

Please, Dylan stopped singing protest songs years before the war peaked. By '68 and Tet, Dylan was married with kids and playing 'square' country music in Nashville while hippies were rolling in mud and spreading STDs. Dylan clearly sustained hippies, refused to play Woodstock even while living their. He knew stupid white people when he saw them.
Posted by Mr. Jones on September 1, 2010 at 10:25 PM · Report this
Harumph! Go back to your Rhiannas and your Gagas and your Wu-Tang Clans, whippersnappers!

Seriously, I only have about a decade on each of these kids, but I loved Dylan from age fifteen on. Must be a Minnesota thing.
Posted by Gigolo Asshattin' on September 1, 2010 at 10:27 PM · Report this
"Dylan clearly sustained hippies"

Typo: Dylan clearly disdained hippies....
Posted by Mr. Jones on September 1, 2010 at 10:30 PM · Report this
29 Comment Pulled (Dick) Comment Policy
"The boomer generation ruined the environment,"

Yes dear. How's your coltan habit these days, dear?
Posted by Mrs Piggle Wiggle on September 1, 2010 at 10:44 PM · Report this
I just saw Dylan in Portland. He is a 69 year old rock genius. But he doesn't care what I think. He doesn't care what these kids think. He only cares about the music. Anyone who listens to Biograph for 72 hours and doesn't feel at least one shiver of pure recognition, one moment of new crazy knowledge about the world, has barely begun to live, or has already started to die.
Posted by sjt on September 1, 2010 at 10:44 PM · Report this
The reviews were written poorly? Seemed ok to me. Damn, we have some serious "writers/ Masters of the Written Word" commenting on these articles.
Posted by aeros66 on September 1, 2010 at 10:51 PM · Report this
I used to HATE Dylan...his songs, his voice, and I thought he was the UGLIEST TROLL on the planet.

A friend took me to see him in concert at the end of 2004 when I was 32. I LOVED HIM.

Now I love his voice, his songs, and I think he is the sexiest beast to walk this planet. lol Weird how stuff happens....
Posted by Milkcow on September 1, 2010 at 10:54 PM · Report this
Congratulations, wonderful journalism(i sooo respect you as a part of our wonderful society). What a great new exposition of dust in the eyes! I bet we're all aware of the statistical significance the opinion of four 18-20 year-olds really carries and how much this can be accounted for to be the general opinion of an entire generation. In fact, this piece was so effective, i think i'm gonna go listen to lady gaga. and throw up.
Posted by Oh_My_0 on September 1, 2010 at 11:15 PM · Report this
kate13: sorry, didn't mean to insult an entire generation. i don't know who is responsible for the troubles you claim are my fault. I really think we're all in this thing together. I blame the power elite, not any one generation for the problems you mention.

Dylan wrote things no one was saying, that everybody was thinking back then...it was quite a revelation that Dylan was even possible...when society was so restrictive.

I know parents who banned their children from listening to Dylan, that seems funny now, but it wasn't so funny back in the 60's,,,

Listen to: "Circle Game" by Joni Mitchell
Posted by RollinStone on September 1, 2010 at 11:23 PM · Report this
News flash: 18 year olds don't "get" Dylan
Posted by neitherdidibackthen on September 1, 2010 at 11:51 PM · Report this
This is an interesting concept but I'm leery about compilations for an artist like Dylan, who was never really about hit singles. He's an album-oriented dude--I'd give the kids Blonde on Blonde, Highway 61 Revisited and Blood on the Tracks.

My favorite Dylan songs have varied over the years, but lately I've been into "Simple Twist of Fate" and "Shelter from the Storm."

Posted by Functional Atheist on September 2, 2010 at 12:43 AM · Report this
The fact that Dylan's important doesn't make him listenable.
Posted by Happy the Homophobe on September 2, 2010 at 2:01 AM · Report this
never cared much for him
Posted by black people on September 2, 2010 at 2:48 AM · Report this
this was hilarious
Posted by madame_dakar on September 2, 2010 at 5:47 AM · Report this
There is always a large number of people who don't get Dylan, or just don't like his voice enough to want to try. Fair enough. The amazing thing about Dylan, however, is that in 45 years...they'll still be having this conversation...just as they were 45 years ago. Anyone want to bet Justin Beiber or Miley Cyrpus will have that kind of impact?
Posted by LostSok0523 on September 2, 2010 at 5:50 AM · Report this
I am 27 and have seen Dylan in concert 30 times. He is the poet laureate or Rock and Roll, the voice of a generation, he forced folk into bed with rock.

Kids today just don't listen to good music why do you think the music business is in such sad affairs, their are no good musical acts.
Posted by Film major on September 2, 2010 at 5:57 AM · Report this
As Charlie Brown once said, "I weep for this generation."
Posted by youngbutdailygrowing on September 2, 2010 at 6:07 AM · Report this
You don't have to be 18 to hate Dylan's music (if you can call it that). Some of us have always hated it since it came out!
Posted by woofy on September 2, 2010 at 6:08 AM · Report this
Great article! I was not a fan until aged 21. I bought Greatest Hits Vol 2 on vinyl,second hand. I kinda liked some of it......Lay Lady Lay was my favourite......because of his voice. All I Really Want To Do, I perversely liked, because I thought his yodel was.....indescribable.

I then bought Clinton Heylin's Behind The Shades book, and it inspired me to buy his albums chronologically, starting with Bootlegs Vols 1-3. I was sold. I would struggle to listen to Biograph straight. I agree compilations are not the way to listen to him.

Anyway, one thing that must be agreed is that he is polarising. And that is a great thing, because viva la difference!
Posted by Andrew K on September 2, 2010 at 6:23 AM · Report this
This was a really interesting read...comment section as well. I kind of felt put off by these kids too at first, but then I realized, "Wait a minute, that was me when I was a teenager."

I was born in the late '70s so Dylan was more my parents' generation's thing...and in high school I remember a friend of mine and I trying to listen to a Dylan greatest hits record and just laughing our way through it!! Why was this guy the voice of a whole generation? The guy couldn't even sing!!!

But then into my '20s, I started to get it. I don't remember why, I don't remember how, but something just clicked. "Love and Theft" was the first non-greatest-hits album I bought of his and I played that thing out!!! Since I've become a bit of a Dylan nerd...visiting the "Expecting Rain" site daily.

I don't fault these kids for not getting it. When I was listening to hair metal in the '80s, I didn't (don't judge me, please!). Maybe they never will get it. That's fine. But for many people, when Dylan's music clicks, it CLICKS!!! His legacy is pretty firmly intact.
Posted by AndyP on September 2, 2010 at 7:20 AM · Report this
I just turned 20 and cannot get enough of Bob Dylan. Almost every song, save for Wiggle Wiggle, has some degree of relevance. I don't understand how these people can't relate to him. He truly is the best singer songwriter ever and will continue to be as his current material is just as good (to me) as his 60's stuff.
Posted by Anthony121 on September 2, 2010 at 7:41 AM · Report this
It bothers me that this wonderful artist's music is referred to as a "torture" test. I've followed Bob since 1962 and been to more of his shows than I can count. How about a Bob Dylan "appreciation" test? After all, he's won Grammys, and Oscar, the Polar Music Prize and other awards. Not bad for someone who "tortures" people's ears, eh?? If I have my pick of music for the day, it's Dylan I'd put on first, and over and over again.
Posted by MEK on September 2, 2010 at 8:29 AM · Report this
The reviewers don't admit it, but all but one were personally very offended by Ballad of a Thin Man, and Emma felt that Leopardskin Pillbox Hat spoke directly to her soul.
Posted by Something is happening here on September 2, 2010 at 8:57 AM · Report this
I'm not sure why people are so pissed off to hear the opinions of young, first-time Dylan listeners. I'm 34, not a Dylan fan, but also not a huge music fan in general, and I'm not at all surprised by their reactions.

My only suggestion would be to keep listening. If I like something the first time I listen to it, it's an excellent sign I'll be sick of it in a month. If I keep listening to it and I hear new things and find new meanings each time, the music stays with me. People (not just kids) who are fans of pop music may not realize that, and they'll think that if something doesn't grab them on the first listen - never mind the tenth or twentieth because they never make it that far - it's no good.

I do wonder what their reactions would be to listening to good covers of each song on Biograph. It might be a better "gateway" to appreciating Dylan's originals. His voice is a hard obstacle for some people to overcome.

And now I'm wondering if I should check to see what Dylan my public library has so I should give him more of a shot. Maybe some of the albums some people here have suggested. (Can't afford to buy CDs, or even much on iTunes.)
Posted by I'm obsessed with Sarah McLachlan, what the hell do I know? on September 2, 2010 at 9:18 AM · Report this
I don't know why everyone is assuming that all kids listen to is Disney shit. Whether you agree or loath the opinions (I personally get bothered by the big D's "tunes") young people today - especially in Seattle - are as much/if not more involved with and knowledgeable about music then we were. Besides the fact that they take the time to know and love our generation too - I challenge you to find one teen who hates the Beatles or Joplin etc. Don't get your feathers ruffled.
Posted by fishnethats on September 2, 2010 at 9:48 AM · Report this
I don't know why everyone is assuming that all kids listen to is Disney shit. Whether you agree or loath the opinions (I personally get bothered by the big D's "tunes") young people today - especially in Seattle - are as much/if not more involved with and knowledgeable about music then we were. Besides the fact that they take the time to know and love our generation too - I challenge you to find one teen who hates the Beatles or Joplin etc. Don't get your feathers ruffled.
Posted by fishnethats on September 2, 2010 at 9:54 AM · Report this
More breaking news: People over 50 don't find Lil Wayne terribly relevant to their lives.
Posted by bigyaz on September 2, 2010 at 10:30 AM · Report this
Eh, I'm young and grew up in an East Coast city where 60s folk music was as popular with hipsters as garage and soul is to Seattle hipsters. There were hipster bars with only 60 folk in their jukeboxes. I pretty much only listened to the stuff, and yet Dylan never did anything for me.

It doesn't surprise me that these teens don't like him. He's like Joanna Newsome in that some people can't get past the strange voice. Beyond that, while he might have been a great songwriter for his time, since then there have been so many equally great, poetic songwriters who are more relevant to my generation.

He's like Shakespeare. While you can admire his skill, you might not neccessarily ever want to read him again. His themes have all been done many times over since his day and done in ways that are arguably more appealing.

Plus, sorry, but he was a sexist prick. Ask Joan Baez.
Posted by Young Folkster on September 2, 2010 at 10:52 AM · Report this
@13 hahahahahahhahhaah! an occasion that has probably happened for many i'm sure!

@31 Spot on, spot on. case closed.
Posted by 4b2 on September 2, 2010 at 10:59 AM · Report this
Original Monique 56
I used to hate Dylan, and much like one of the writers I preferred covers of his songs to the original. But in my mid-20s something changed, and I really started to like him. Maybe these kids will grow to appreciate him more someday. Either way, I dug the article.
Posted by Original Monique http://www.facebook.com/notifications.php#/group.php?gid=124801948427 on September 2, 2010 at 11:01 AM · Report this
merry 57
Too funny!!

I commend you young author-listeners for not only being willing to undergo this experiment, but also for the quality of your writing.

I've got a few years on you guys, but even for me, Dylan was an acquired taste. To really appreciate him you need a good grasp of the times when he arose - what he did at the Newport Folk Festival and the repercussions of that event - some understanding of the beats (i.e. beatniks) and folk music and how that whole scene gave rise to the hippies and their anti-war stance... etc etc...

And yeah, once you come to terms with his unique vocals, and you begin to cue into those outstanding lyrics, you just may 'get it'.. and once you do, it's a whole new world for you..
Posted by merry on September 2, 2010 at 11:24 AM · Report this
God bless you, the Stranger. I wasn't born in the 90's (I'm 41) but I've never understood the boomers obsession with this Bob Dylan character. Sure, he's written one or two decent songs - but the rest are absolute crap. I'm fairly certain a monkey with a guitar, an unlimited supply of weed and lsd could, over the course of 40 years, do the same.
Posted by buttmonkey on September 2, 2010 at 12:36 PM · Report this
lunch break 59
haha - I knew when I saw the title to this article everyone would have an opinion to state...
Posted by lunch break http://www.failblog.org on September 2, 2010 at 2:05 PM · Report this
The Dylan of today has very, VERY little relevance to the lives of those caught up in the throes of Rihanna and Jay-Z. He is not for everybody--he never was.

'He's not golden. He's just another singer-songwriter.' That says it all--the depth of their analysis can be gauged accordingly. The perfect Dylan song (I think) is 'Chimes of Freedom' and his ultimate performance of it at the newport festival in 64 or 65. Chilling.

A century from now, Dylan will be discussed as a poet, artist, and prophet. Cypress Hill who??
Posted by StephenCramer on September 2, 2010 at 2:09 PM · Report this
I like Dylan and will see the show this weekend, but I loved this article. The 20-year old Dylan would have given a similar review to most musicians of a previous era, no matter how popular. I'm 47 and was 6 in 1969, so I never cared for the "relevance" of Dylan's music to what was going on historically. I don't care why people older than me love his music so much, and the lyrics...most of them are just wacky bits of words that sometimes rhyme but often don't, and usually don't make sense. Which is why I like him.
Posted by Sterno on September 2, 2010 at 2:21 PM · Report this
Wow. That was some seriously bad writing. Good enough for the UW Daily, though.
Posted by Blech on September 2, 2010 at 3:32 PM · Report this
Geni 63
Not all boomers revere the guy, either. I agree with a couple of the points others have made - most of the covers of his songs are miles better than the originals (listen to Warren Zevon doing Knocking on Heaven's Door, made when he was dying of terminal cancer - if you don't get teary, you're not human), and Dylan works best in the context of an album (but only some of his albums work, either). I love Blood on the Tracks, but you can keep most of the others.

I do, however, love Things Have Changed from The Wonder Boys soundtrack.
Posted by Geni on September 2, 2010 at 5:22 PM · Report this
People find their way to Dylan-fandom (if they do at all) by strange routes. (I became a fan when I was 9 years old, reading the liner notes to Highway 61.) But he's definitely a rare and acquired taste. His son's band's first CD sold more copies than all of Dylan's work had over his entire career by then (mid-90s).
Posted by Charlieford on September 2, 2010 at 6:53 PM · Report this
The Beatles and every other important artist of the last 50 years were and are in AWE of Bob Dylan. What is the point of asking four kids who grew up on a limited palate of music expression what they think? Other than to have them embarrass themselves? Unless that was the point, then well done The Stranger.
Posted by Elder Statesman on September 2, 2010 at 7:01 PM · Report this
It is not hard for me to understand the parents and young people's reaction to Dylan's music. It would be unfair to assume they are idiots, but more likely are habituated to a particular sound and way of listening to music. Most music made in the last 20-30 years has been heavily manipulated and digitally cleaned-up so that very little of the organic subtleties remain. Vocals are pitch enhanced to remove the subtle veering in pitch that occurs naturally in the human voice. To hear something so utterly real has got to be alarming when one has only known sterile, corporate manufactured sound and image. There should be a Bob Dylan, and music-that-inspired Bob, immersion course to rescue these poor victims of consumer culture. They also need to be read aloud to--from Wordsworth to Verlaine--so they may recover that wonderful human capacity to be profoundly moved and creatively and spiritually inspired by poetic imagery.
Posted by Kristianne on September 2, 2010 at 8:35 PM · Report this
I hated Dylan when I first listened to him, also around 18. Similar to T. Waits, there are a few prerequisites to appreciating the music: A bad break-up, a little poverty, a touch of crime, many bad decisions, some retching drunks, waking in jail doesn't hurt.

At 18, most people probably don't have the life experience to get into music like this.
Posted by Zimmerman on September 3, 2010 at 12:26 AM · Report this
This is an interesting gimmick, but no more than that. Try listening to nothing but the 170 CDs of the complete works of Mozart and you will pull your hair out at some point, too; I write from experience. But that's not how musicians, artists, or cooks for that matter expect anyone to approach their work. As for the inter-generational backstabbing -- boomers polluted the earth; naughts don' know nuttin', have no soul, spirituality blather blather blather -- give it a rest. Likewise, predicting who will be listened to, read or imitated a century from now is a fool's errand. The comments by Galen Weber, Emma Kelley, Ashraf Hasham and Cage McKinsey were actually pretty good. As one old enough to be their parent, I can say their apparent intelligence is cause for optimism.
Posted by Lincoln on September 3, 2010 at 8:38 AM · Report this
Rich Jensen 69
Issac Brock was into Dylan. Obviously.
Posted by Rich Jensen http://cabingames.net on September 3, 2010 at 8:42 AM · Report this
Some of the comments here are so condescending and judgmental. You'd be surprised by what young people actually listen to. I live on Capitol Hill, and you go into any vintage store, bar, or record store in the neighborhood and hear bands like Can, Love, Os Mutantes, 60s French pop, as well as old motown, soul & R&B being played by people in their 20s.

I'm not "young" (in my early 30s), but when I was in junior high I was listening to Melanie. In college, it was all Grateful Dead, Pete Seeger, both the Guthries, Pentangle, Ritchie Havens, etc...and I never liked Dylan. Neither did my parents, who are of his generation.

Assuming people don't like an artist because they have bad taste or can't appreciate what real, untreated voices sound like is ridiculous. I record music and hear untreated voices daily that are beautiful and moving without any treatment. Dylan's is not one.
Posted by Dylan fans are dicks, apparently... on September 3, 2010 at 9:41 AM · Report this
@70: Wow, Capitol Hill is such a thriving oasis of music. You can hear everything from pop to rock to R&B to soul to rock to jam rock to soul to rock to pop...whew! My head is spinning! What variety!
Posted by Blech on September 3, 2010 at 10:12 AM · Report this
This was wonderful to read, though I agree that three days straight of almost any artist would be torture. People like Dylan are really best enjoyed in far smaller doses.

What's really funny to me is that, as a 46 year old who really digs Dylan's music, I could totally agree with everything said here about him, no matter how harsh. The guy can't sing, can't play the guitar and can't write a song...and he blows me away time after time.

It's nice to see that at least one person looks set to be a lifelong fan. It wouldn't surprise me at all if the others found themselves with some unexpected enjoyment the next time they hear a Dylan tune.

Great concept for a story, everyone--thanks!
Posted by mran on September 3, 2010 at 10:54 AM · Report this
I was using Cap Hill as one example of people in their 20s obviously listening to 60s music since I live there. I'm from Providence and could have just as easily used that city.

Besides, we're talking about Bob Dylan, one of the best known folk singers, not some obscure musician only music snobs like yourself know about. But continue to be a grumpy, jaded fuck. Everyone loves that shit.
Posted by So charming on September 3, 2010 at 12:27 PM · Report this
snoopy 74
In a snide-sound-byte-sorta-way #5 sums it up. #7 underscores a case of arrested development. Too bad, at about that age, three decades into life, I was coming around past all the cultural baggage (can one?) to truly appreciate old Bobby. He had a great grasp on the social history of poetics and a sharp enough mind to play with it all gloriously. May it be the dominion of the young mind to be dismissive of what they don't "get". Perhaps later, when they're older, they'll come back around to Dr. Suess: "I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells."

As Rich Jensen suggests, do it again, but give them "Don't Look Back" instead of "Biograph"
Posted by snoopy on September 3, 2010 at 7:16 PM · Report this
It's not only the age. I loved Bob Dylan just as much when I was 18 as I do now. It isn't hard to understand why Dylan is great and stands next to Satchmo as one of American music's most important musical figures. If these new adults don't love him yet, they might when their frontal lobe fully develops in a few years.
Posted by JAMES123456 on September 3, 2010 at 9:03 PM · Report this
"Bob isn't a musician to be a fan of; He's a planet to be explored." . . . or something like that. ~~~paraphrased from George Harrison. This has been true for me. Hey, you either get Bob or you don't. Forget about trying to figure out why.
Posted by slowtrain on September 3, 2010 at 10:21 PM · Report this
I'm 40, and think these kids are being too kind..... I never liked Dylan, and will hopefully never be so old that I do.
Posted by destroy all hippies on September 4, 2010 at 5:42 PM · Report this
Biograph was a bad choice, as any compilation would be for an album guy like Dylan. He wrote complete musical works, not singles. Should have given them Blood on the Tracks, or Highway 61 Revisited, or even Love and Theft. A masochistic exercise to be sure. Now lock a couple 55 year olds up for 72 hours and let them listen to the complete recordings of Lady Gaga which means they'd repeat one hour of music 72 times.
Posted by Seansies61 on September 4, 2010 at 5:43 PM · Report this
I don't get. How does the perspective of a 19-year-old differ that much from the late 20ers/early 30ers that comprise most of this newspaper's staff and readership? "hmmm...I have so much cosmic insight...hmmm....time to update my Twitter."
Posted by steve dedalus on September 4, 2010 at 6:53 PM · Report this
What a surprise, seventeen, eighteen and nineteen year olds think they know everything and everyone who came before them is irrelevant and passe.

Dylan is a love him or hate him kind of guy. I happen to love him, but I know he's not to everyone's taste. My guess is, when these kiddos actually have some life experience, they'll start to like music with a message a little more (whether Bob Dylan, in particular, ever becomes their taste or not).

Similar to the fact that when I was in high school in the 90s, I got mocked and ostracized for liking The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Who, etc, and now, 15 years later, all the former grungeheads are friending me on social networking sites and going "hey, man, have you heard that Hey Jude song? It's awesome. And there's this rock opera thing? Tommy, I think it's called? You should totally see it."

.... yes, yes, believe it or not, I have. They're not *quite* new, see. But welcome to the party.
Posted by seanchai on September 4, 2010 at 8:43 PM · Report this
I'm 28, and I love Dylan. Dylan is not just a Baby Boomer artist. He is still very popular among young people who curious, intelligent and have good taste. And yes--people still care about him. He had a number one hit on the Billboard charts a couple of years ago for God's sake. His albums still sell consistently well. This is just the opinion of a handful of kids. They don't speak for their generation.

These kids are admittedly articulate, but most of them are not nearly as intelligent as they think they are. Dylan's lyrics actually make a whole lot of sense, and you don't have to be stoned or living in the Sixties to understand them. They make more sense than the majority of songs being written today-- or in the Sixties for that matter. Like a previous poster wrote, a lot of kids think Shakespeare is nonsense too! (Honest, I taught them!) He doesn't traffic in light entertainment. You have to bring a little bit more to his music.

Bob Dylan has never been as accessible as The Beatles, but to call him "just another singer-songwriter" is absurd. And ignorant. Our modern conception of singer-songwriters wouldn't exist without Dylan!
Posted by LukeStr on September 4, 2010 at 10:39 PM · Report this
Diana 82
@20 I got into Dylan in my 20's via Don't Look Back, as well.

In my 30's I got a Dylan box set and listened to the same album daily for a month until I made my way through the box. That shit grows on you.

Listening to one compilation once is not a sufficient introduction/indoctrination to his genius.

That said, since my Dylan box set binge, I have not deliberately put on Dylan once.
Posted by Diana on September 4, 2010 at 11:46 PM · Report this
I LOVE Lady GAGA and I LOVE Bob Dylan too! SO FUCK OFF!!!
Posted by Erok on September 5, 2010 at 12:50 PM · Report this
This has to be the funniest discussion I have ever read. You may like Dylan or you may not (both is completely fine), but that is about all you can do about it. Questioning his skills as a lyricist or songwriter is absurd. You may not like Rembrandt, so you woud say he couldn't paint? The article is interesting, the discussion just sad.
Posted by Josef on September 5, 2010 at 1:10 PM · Report this
I am 30, and love Dylan. Dad introduced me with Mr. Tamborine man when I was 19, and at first his voice was something I tolerated to listen to the words. Then one day, as I listened more and more, I loved his voice, and I have never looked back. I did a musical journey from his first album till the latest, reading the wikipedia page for each as went along... it was so nice to not have to wait as long for the next album, as people did when they were made.

Considering the fact that he is an amazing song writer, few have successfully sang his songs. There are a few covers worth listening to, but more often than not I end up missing the feeling that he always sings with and the sense of humor he brings to so many songs. I love his voice.

I was surprised to read the participants saying there was little relevance, as for me, especially during the Bush years, it was painfully clear that not much had changed. It also pained me to see how most of us have given up on trying to change anything, and instead are resigned to the rat race.

Anyways, I am lucky enough to be with the girl of my dreams. She is 24, beautiful, random, intelligent, funny, and loves Dylan too!

Posted by Jiggz on September 5, 2010 at 2:26 PM · Report this
Bob Dylan is still alive ?
Posted by Fuck Face on September 5, 2010 at 8:46 PM · Report this
Bob Dylan music is like the movie Pulp Fiction. Either you love it or you hate it. I am 39 and my father incessantly played Dylan throughout my childhood. I thought it was torture until my early 20s when I got past his voice. Now, I really love his voice...and I absolutely adore his lyrics.

People who don't get him, well, they just don't get him. I don't get the appeal of most rap music, but it doesn't invalidate its importance in the world of music. Bob Dylan's music is not all geared toward protest of the Vietnam War. But even many of those songs could be applied to these times. I particularly enjoyed "Masters of War" while Bush was president and starting the Iraq War. Then there are songs like "Mr. Tambourine Man" which was about addiction and "Girl From the North Country" about sorrow and lost love.

People who box him into a certain time period have only heard a few hits. I am with many of the commenters. The best way to experience Dylan for the first time is not 72 hours of a "best of" compilation. It is by listening to albums like "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" (my personal favorite) or "Highway 61 Revisited." It also helps to have a little life experience and empathy to relate to the characters in his songs. Oh, and 20 years to get used to his voice doesn't hurt.
Posted by MJ1971 on September 6, 2010 at 1:44 AM · Report this
biju 88
Biograph is a terrible introduction to Dylan.
Posted by biju on September 6, 2010 at 4:22 PM · Report this
bhowie 89
@66: Thank you!!!
And yes, "Biograph" was a stupid choice.
Posted by bhowie on September 7, 2010 at 10:17 AM · Report this
Cosmo Spacey 90
Bob Dylan is living History.
Posted by Cosmo Spacey http://www.myspace.com/cosmospacey on September 7, 2010 at 12:18 PM · Report this
58 "he's written one or two good songs but the rest are absolute crap"

Am just curious what some songs are (by others, obviously) that you think are great.
Posted by brueso on September 7, 2010 at 12:43 PM · Report this
I wonder how different these reviews would have been if they had listened to a 3-disc made up by a panel of dylan fans? Because it would not have included ANY of the sheer, mind-numbing awfulness of his career post-blood on the tracks.
If I had to listen to any of his three 'jesus albums' (slow train coming, anyone?), I would hate Dylan, too.

18yo's opinions ARE bunk.
Posted by Anonymous Commenter on September 7, 2010 at 2:17 PM · Report this
These people are dumb.

-- Bob Dylan has tons of songs that are super-rockin' and literal; surely you can understand "Hurrican" and "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carrol" without being reminded of a rambling lunatic.

-- Attn "Emmy": ***It's supposed to be funny!*** If a song is driving you to "convulsions of laughter," that's a good thing... music is supposed to express a personality and create emotions, that's not really a downside.
Posted by Gudrun Brangwen on September 7, 2010 at 6:21 PM · Report this
If I had to keep looking at that scary mug, I'd go bonkers. I know its Dylan, but really...

Couldn't the cameraman get him to stop glowering?

My first thought was, Huh?
What is Vincent Price doing with John Waters' pencil mustache?
Posted by Rawkcuf on September 8, 2010 at 7:15 AM · Report this
When I moved into my dorm room beginning in college, my roommate proved to be the most boring person on the face of the earth. No personality whatsoever. What clued me in to what was going to be this ongoing pattern was that she elaborately apologized/boasted that she loved Bob Dylan. A lot. Really. All I could think was, "This is your identity? Everyone in the universe loves Bob Dylan. That's like saying 'I like air' or 'cookies are great.'" But I'm a couple years older than these kids. And I was raised right. By which I mean, raised by a freak poet who never traded in the 60's for a white collar.
Posted by Sibby on September 8, 2010 at 9:06 AM · Report this
WeeblesWobble 96
93: Word. "Biograph" wasn't the best choice, but these kids just don't like music. They're not alone among their contemporaries--music is just "content" to this generation. They'll never get it.
Posted by WeeblesWobble http://lipidlove.blogspot.com/2011/02/pointing-out-obvious.html on September 8, 2010 at 12:43 PM · Report this
96: you're too invested in Dylan to be objective. He's all you have to hang your hat on when you're out of little blue pills.

And ferchrissakes, when you revert to a "these kids" argument, know it as your cue to book a Carnival Cruise and STFU.
Posted by Henry Mancini on September 8, 2010 at 9:44 PM · Report this
@66 anyone busking on a street corner can "save" the unwashed far better than a digitally-remastered-to-capture-the-shittiness Dylan CD.
Posted by Chippin' dale's on September 8, 2010 at 9:58 PM · Report this
@96 I'm 19 and I love the Bob. "Kids these days" are too fucking dull and uninspired to understand what Dylan's all about. It may sound cliche, but it's true. There's no place for intelligent music that requires an attention span in today's dumbass culture. Old people are damn lucky that they have peers to enjoy Dylan with, because I'm surrounded by these half-witted fuckheads who'd rather pump Bieber and GaGa. But do I really give a shit? Bah!
Posted by Grinderman on September 9, 2010 at 11:02 PM · Report this
Witch on steroids-- ahahaahahhaaa!! I love many BD songs but that's the best description of his voice I've ever read.
Posted by sampler on September 10, 2010 at 3:59 AM · Report this
I've been a Dylan listener for more than 40 years. I found this article (and the ensuing comments) profoundly interesting.

First, I thought the young reviewers wrote thoughtful and even insightful pieces, even though I disagreed with most of their observations.

Second, I was surprised that (as far as I could tell) not one comment mentioned that Bob Dylan is still writing new and highly relevant music. The music on Biograph is 30 years old. Perhaps music written during the lifetimes of the reviewers would have more relevance.
Posted by alew222 on September 10, 2010 at 5:26 PM · Report this
I've been a Dylan listener for more than 40 years. I found this article (and the ensuing comments) profoundly interesting.

First, I thought the young reviewers wrote thoughtful and even insightful pieces, even though I disagreed with most of their observations.

Second, I was surprised that (as far as I could tell) not one comment mentioned that Bob Dylan is still writing new and highly relevant music. The music on Biograph is 30 years old. Perhaps music written during the lifetimes of the reviewers would have more relevance.
Posted by alew222 on September 10, 2010 at 5:30 PM · Report this
I'm 24, and I fucking hate Bob Dylan. I mean, I recognize that he had an important message and was standing up to the man, standing up for what he believed in..but I cannot stand his music.

By the way, this does not mean I like/listen to Lil John/Rhianna/Britney, or the shit of modern music. This does not mean I do not have appreciation for musical composition (my mother is an opera singer, and my uncle is on broadway). This does not mean that I find his era of music irrelevant (love The Beatles, Hendrix, Joplin, Stevie Ray Vaughn) It's just hard to get into the groove of meaning and lyrics and sound when the producer of all this is an incompetent singer and composer, and whose lyrics are either stream of consciousness or pathetic excuses at rhyming.

His voice is annoying. His harmonica is annoying. His simplistic rhyming scheme is annoying. Bob Dylan is an Emperor in new clothes. Young people who can separate the music from the legend tend to see it for what it is. Just because people don't agree with your musical preferences doesn't make them wrong or immature. What's immature is calling people names who disagree with you for good reasons.
Posted by Caralain on September 12, 2010 at 9:50 AM · Report this
I kind of want to applaud you, 103.
I'm from the generation in question too, and just because I don't like Dylan's sound doesn't mean it's because I'm brainwashed by some sort of flash-in-the-pan overproduced pop. My generation is no more made up of philistines than the ones before it (C'mon, you guys had crappy music then too, the forgettables have just all been forgotten already), and actually tends to have quite an appreciation for music of the past. When I was in Junior High classic rock was the big cool thing, and when Dylan and Cohen both toured here my senior year of high school there were lots of my classmates in the audience. The "kids these days!" argument is pathetic and has been going around since Aristotle. Culture changes like that.

Try to remember that almost no generation is enitrely defined by the mainstream best-selling music. If we can all be grouped in with Lil Wayne and High School Musical, than the 1960s youth can surely all be remembered for the Monkees and the Sound of Music. I mean, that stuff was infinitely more popular than Bob Dylan!

(all that said, most of my favourite folk bands and singer/songwriters probably owe Dylan a lot, and I acknowledge his importance and skill as a lyricist. )
Posted by 20 in 2010 on September 12, 2010 at 5:37 PM · Report this
Dylan is the greatest artist America has yet produced, with the possible exception of Walt Whitman. (Whitman, by the way, was controversial too. Emerson called him "the most American genius"; Whittier threw his copy into the fire.) An Irish friend commented to me thirty years ago that "Dylan can't sing, he can't play the guitar, and he can't play the harmonica. That's what makes him so great." Too many great songs to mention. As for best albums, I'd recommend BRINGING IT ALL BACK HOME, HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED, and BLOOD ON THE TRACKS. No, I can't defend his voice, but it's the voice of the people, "The song of a poet who died in the gutter." Need a one-song recommendation from a lifetime Dylan fan? "Tangled Up In Blue."
Posted by John H on September 14, 2010 at 9:28 AM · Report this
It would have been more interesting to expose these subjects to a broader swath of music than what Biograph, released in 1985, offers. An interesting stepping stone exercise would have been to give them two weeks and the following albums:

The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited
John Wesley Harding
Nashville Skyline
New Morning
Blood on the Tracks
The Basement Tapes
Slow Train Coming
Oh Mercy
Good As I Been to You
Time out of Mind
Together Through Life

Thirteen widly different albums performed over 47 years that would have produced a variety of reactions.
Posted by Robert MacMillan on September 21, 2010 at 8:37 AM · Report this
RyWilson 107
I myself am a huge Bob fan and will be seeing him November. I am going to be 17 on October 10th. Born in 1?93 (when the "world gone wrong") I hardly think any age generation or group should be targeted. I do not agree with any of these 4 people who reviewed here. I do agree they started with the wrong compilation. Growing up I only listened and even knew of 2 90s bands, spice girls and Hanson, my father (being a sick child with a heart condition unable to do many physical activities) gave me a gift. He sat me in front of a desk, gave me pencils, paper, and a radio, tuned into the oldies station. I'd stay up all night and write and in return for my tales, I'd learn and perform the songs coming from the radio for my parents. He died when I was 9. I've been through plenty. So maybe just maybe, it does take a certain amount of life experience to understand Dylan. My road to dylan started when I was 12, I got heavily into punk (ramones, pistols, clash, buzzcocks, etc.) And then got into poetry, but especially beat poetry. Then I returned to the music I loved coming from the radio and through that discovered Dylan. From my first listen (Subterranean Homesick Blues) to now, I was in love. I understand all his meant-to-be understood references, and appreciate the wit in those not meant to be. Just a year ago, on my 16th birthday I went to New York City and bought my first harmonica, I since then have started performing and added "musician" to my career along with "published poet." Maybe it takes a certain type of mind or background to understand and appreciate certain artists. Nobody is at blame, and age certainly shouldn't be. I believe age is a number, a malicious number that tries to define and limit you, I don't dig either. I went from not knowing or caring about Bob to now striving to be good enough to play with him (and if I'm lucky enough run my fingers through those gorgeous curls.)
These people gave their opinion. And in return we give ours, it's the beauty of free speech. I may not agree with their opinions and yes I do hope one day they appreciate Dylan and hopefully understand him too. I'm younger than these people, granted I don't feel it considering I grew up quick. With a dead father and a remarried mother with a baby you were expected and at times had no other choice but to care for as she worked or went to bars until 4am maybe that gives me an advantage on more understanding. But that cannot be measured. Stop making silly judgments on each others generations. We're all people. Age or no age. Each with a brain and thoughts. To each its own.
My personal take on Bob?
A blazing star. A true story teller and damn good musician. His voice is, yes, an acquired taste, but any taste can be changed. He's a gorgeous man with talent that exceeds limits! How many 69 year olds can test the fate of time and still come out on top? With new and younger people joining in each second? Not many! He is a peoples person music wise. There must be hundreds of his songs I can relate to. And I've done this test before these individuals, when I first started listening, I stayed up for 3 days and 4 hours and did nothing but listen to Dylan. When I showered? I played him. When I went out? I played him through headphones. Every seconds was spent listening and watching. And I fell more and more into love with this man who blew into my mind like a tumbleweed strolling along the roads of time. And I'll never look back. He's a timeless original who cannot be ignored. Whether you love or hate Dylan? He's a pivotal person, musician, influence, poet, and more.
So, with that being said. Stop trying to blame who and what is "wrong" with these kids, its just a matter of taste.

Love and hate may be four lettered words, but they feel like so much more.
-Mariah "Ry" Wilson-
Posted by RyWilson http://www.rywilson.co.cc on September 26, 2010 at 3:57 AM · Report this
As a Boomer who grew up with Dylan's influence all around, I was quite impressed with in writing and perspectives these four young people showed in their analysis. I was also surprised that the parents comments weren't more insightful.

Dylan's greater contribution is his song writing, not his own performance. I agree with most all the negatives about his "whiny voice," overuse of harmonica, simplistic repetition, etc. but also agree with those who said the "covers" of his songs were almost always better than Dylan's own performances (except perhaps for "Just Like a Woman"...)

In some form or another, someone WILL be listening to something Dylan wrote 100 years from now. I doubt that most current popular performers will be on ANYone's hit list in 2110...
Posted by Me, too. on October 6, 2010 at 1:22 PM · Report this
Sounds a lot like my initial reaction hearing Dylan's first album when I was fifteen (in 1964). It just sounded too weird. But a lot of people whose opinions I respected seemed to think there was something extraordinary to be heard and I kept going back. I'm glad I did. I wouldn't have chosen "Biograph" as a way of introducing his work. One of the subjects was right. He's great storyteller. Check out "Bob Dylan's 115th Dream," "The Ballad Of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest" or "Brownsville Girl" for a way in from that aspect of him. Not for everybody, but if you connect it's like finding yourself in Aladdin's cave.
Posted by Chris In Brockport on June 19, 2011 at 4:23 PM · Report this

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